Cattle tick

(Rhipicephalus australis)

Previously known as Boophilus microplus, and then as Rhipicephalus microplus.

Importance and impact of cattle tick infestation

  • Economic loss due to tick fever.
  • Tick worry, which can significantly reduce cattle live-weight gain and milk production.
  • Anaemia (blood loss).
  • Economic loss due to control methods.
  • Cost of biosecurity measures to prevent spread of the tick and possible disease into tick free zones.

Life cycle type

1 host tick. Ticks moult from larvae to nymph and nymph to adult on the one host.

Host

Cattle are the preferred host of cattle tick, however, heavy infestations may also occur on deer, bison and buffalo. These are considered high risk cattle tick carriers. Horses, camels, goats, sheep, llamas, vicuña, guanacos and alpacas can also carry cattle tick, but they are considered low-risk carriers. Occasionally, they can also be found on marsupials, cats, feral pigs and dogs.

Average time spent on host

Larval, nymph and adult ticks remain on a single host for 18 to 35 days (3 weeks on average).

Life stages

  • Engorged adult females drop off the host and lay up to 3,000 eggs (2,500 on average) in the environment over 5 to 30 days (longer in winter), then die.
  • Eggs hatch into larvae from 15 to 55 days.
  • Larvae survive off the host in the environment from 8 weeks to 9 months, depending on temperature and humidity.
  • The full life cycle can be completed in 3 to 12 months, depending on conditions.

Location on animal

  • Larval ticks can attach anywhere, but the host’s self-grooming behaviour causes the largest numbers to be found on the flank, inside the hind legs, around the udder, neck and brisket.
Figure 1. Engorged adult female cattle tick (upper left) and adult male cattle tick (lower right). Image courtesy of Ralph Stutchbury.
Figure 1. Engorged adult female cattle tick (upper left) and adult male cattle tick (lower right). Image courtesy of Ralph Stutchbury.
Figure 2. Underside of cattle tick female laying eggs. Image courtesy of Diana Leemon.
Figure 2. Underside of cattle tick female laying eggs. Image courtesy of Diana Leemon.


 

Figure 4. Geographic distribution of the cattle tick (Rhipicephalus australis) in Australia. Map created from State and Territory Government distribution maps 2019.
Figure 4. Geographic distribution of the cattle tick (Rhipicephalus australis) in Australia. Map created from State and Territory Government distribution maps 2019.

Australian distribution

Cattle tick are endemic (regularly found) in higher rainfall areas and occur in a broad band following the general outline of the northern Australian coast from north eastern Western Australia to the eastern border between Queensland and New South Wales (Figure 4).

Diagnosis

The best way to diagnose tick infestations before productivity losses occur is to regularly conduct tick screening. Adult stages are the easiest to find and identify. Ticks are seldom seen unless in large numbers, or until females are near engorgement (4.5-8 mm), 1-2 days before they drop (Figure 5). Unfortunately signs of infestation can occur after significant blood loss (and therefore production loss) has already occurred. These signs can also occur with other parasites and diseases.

Figure 5. Adult female cattle ticks at various stages of engorgement. Image courtesy of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Treatment

There are a number of acaricide products and a variety of application methods (dip, drench, pour-on and injectable) that can be used against cattle tick. Your choice will depend on:

  • the current size of the burden of cattle tick.
  • what other ticks species are present, and in what proportion.
  • which acaricides are effective on your property and the length of protection you are seeking.
  • the likely tick-risk over the next few months.
  • the likely abundance of cattle seed-ticks on your pastures.
  • the class of cattle affected and their susceptibility to cattle tick.
  • the last acaricide group/s you used on this (and other) mobs.
  • the time until these cattle are sold/slaughtered and the withholding period and export slaughter interval of products you might use.

Your decision can be assisted by using the Treatment page a simple tool that considers some of the points above.

You can also utilise the TickBoss cattle products search guide on this site or find out specific information about different application methods and chemical groups and actives.

Management

The impact of cattle tick can be reduced by cattle breed selection. Bos indicus cattle (tropical breeds) and their crosses develop better resistance to tick infestations than do Bos taurus cattle (British and European breeds). Within a breed it is also possible to select cattle for increased cattle tick-resistance.

Integrated tick control programs that have been developed for different regions across Australia. To reduce the build-up of acaricide resistant ticks within populations it is also important to consider other parasites when treating.